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India: Land of Big Cats

India Cheetah Cheetah returns to India

Ah, the awe-inspiring wilderness of India. India has been commonly considered to be home to five Big Cats... however, this is soon to change to six! Read on to find more on your favourite big cat species and where in India you can see them. And discover which big cat is being re-introduced to its former home.

  1. Bengal Tiger

india bengal tigers We are starting our list off with possibly the crown-jewel of big cats in India: The Royal Bengal Tiger. India is home to the world’s largest concentration of Bengal Tigers. One easy to reach site that you can meet with the tigers is Ranthambore National Park, where they live and hunt through the semi-arid deserts of Rajasthan. You can combine a visit here with a tour to the ancient capital of India: Delhi, and also venture to Agra to witness the Taj Mahal, one of the seven Wonders of the World. As a bonus to avid wildlife viewers, this area is teeming with rich and diverse bird life. The Bengal Tiger is often known as the Indian Tiger, and can be found in many States. Project Tiger helped protect India’s tall grasses, tropical rainforests, and marshes,  and as such the population of Bengal Tigers has increased over the past decades. A list of India’s 50 plus tiger reserves can be found on this Wikipedia list along with the Big Cat population.

  1. Asiatic Lion

india asiatic lion Asiatic lions are found only in India. Today, there are only about 600 Asiatic lions restricted to Gir National Park, in the state of Gujarat, Western India. They are protected in five areas that include Girnar Sanctuary, the Mitiyala sanctuary, Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, and Pania Sanctuary. Their habitat is restricted to primary tropical and subtropical forests, thorn forests, and the savannah in Gir. As in any of the reserves of India, tigers are only one of the animal attractions. A few small airports can be found near the park as well as railway stations.  

  1. Snow Leopard

india snowleopard ulleyIn the snow-covered Himalayas lie the Pir Panjal mountains of Ladakh: deemed the Land of the High Passes. Here, the ghost-like snow leopard prowls, hunting wild goat, argali, and Himalayan blue sheep. Another common name for the Snow Leopard is the Ounce. Hemis National Park, Gangotri National Park, and Khangchendzonga National Park are the three areas you’ll wish to prioritize if you wish to see the elusive, beautiful Snow Leopard. In these same wintery terrains, you can also expect to see the ibex, bharals, Asian wolves, Golden Eagles, Himalayan vultures, otters, and marmots. This animal is listed as a vulnerable endangered species, with less than 10,000 snow leopards estimated in the world –thus, the sighting of one is guaranteed to be engraved in your memory for life. Snow Leopard treks are offered in the months of January and February.

  1. Clouded Leopard

To view the elusive Clouded Leopard, you will need to do some jungle trekking. The Clouded Leopard, also a vulnerable endangered species, can be found in tropical evergreen forests, dry and secondary logged forests, and the foothills of the Himalayas. These can be seen in the Northeastern parts of India, especially Namdapha National Park which starts at an altitude of 450 meters and ends at an altitude of 4,500 meters. Their diet consists of  Indian hog deer, Bengal slow loris, Asiatic brush-tailed porcupine, and southern pig-tailed macaque.

  1. Spotted Leopard

india spotted leopard The Spotted Leopard has a high population in India, and isn’t shy of settling in habitat near human settlements adjacent to deserts, rainforests, and tropical forests. Because of this, there are frequently human conflicts with the big cat. Leopards are solitary carnivores, and feed primarily on sambar, chital, langur, and Spotted deer... but are also known to feed on livestock or household pets. As many as five spotted leopards can be found in every 40 square miles, making them India’s most common big cat. Black panthers are technically spotted leopards as well with a rare mutation called melanism.

The 6th Big Cat: Cheetah

Gone are the days that the Cheetah is extinct to India. The fastest land animal on earth returned from Namibia to the country this month, with many of them being relocated to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. This is the first-ever trans-continental shifting of a large carnivore, and will mark the first time a cheetah touched Indian soil in 70 years. The relocation will eventually see a breeding population of 35-40 cheetahs translocated to sites across India over the coming decades after monitoring how the first batch acclimatizes to Indian conditions. Once the cheetah arrives, India will officially be known as the home to Six Big Cats.

Other Notable, Smaller Cats found in the sub-continent:
Jungle Cat
Fishing Cat
Pallas’ Cat
Asiatic Wild Cat
Eurasian Lynx
Asian Golden Cat
Caracal
Leopard Cat
Marbled Cat

india asian golden cat So cat-lovers, put India on your bucketlist. Sound like the purr-fect destination for you? Some of the most amazing safari tours in the world await your visit. From the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas, to the dense jungles of Northeastern India, you can search for an elusive feline in diverse biospheres.

Tours of Exploration’s “Wildlife of India” trip takes you to scenic, natural regions of India to see Bengal Tigers, Snow Leopards, Asiatic Lions, and other cats; as well as a vast range of Indian rhinoceros, Asian elephant, antelopes, primates, and more. We throw in several visits to cultural attractions and monumental landmarks, rounding out your remarkable trip to India. Click here to browse our itinerary.    

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